The storefront at 106 Fraley St. in Kane has seen a lot of history. Another chapter of its history will come to a close as It’s Judi’s Place in Kane closes after 50 years, though the memories will live on throughout the community.
The building has served as a home for women’s clothing since 1919, when Emma Stoll Cristy opened a shop that made custom clothing, hand-sewn by seamstresses. The family-owned store remained open until Cristy’s daughter, Luella Gardner, decided to close it in 1970.
Judi Zelina caught wind of the store closing and, sad to see it go, decided she’d take a chance venturing out into the business world. On Oct. 10,1970, along with business partner Phyllis Walter, she opened It’s Judi’s Place.
Opening a clothing store with no experience can be a daunting task, so Gardner graciously mentored Zelina and Walter throughout the first year, taking them to quarterly fashion shows in Pittsburgh and teaching them how to successfully run a business.
After Pittsburgh fashion shows started becoming scarce and she lost her business partner, Zelina began venturing out with her husband, Jack, to New York City several times a year to buy the newest fashions. Judi reminisced on how supportive and helpful her husband was during those trips. He even ended up becoming the official maintenance man for the shop — he was always there when she needed him.
Over the last 50 years, It’s Judi’s Place has gone through some trials and tribulations, including smoke damage from two fires, though it always managed to come out on top. Despite overcoming so many obstacles, Zelina finally decided to throw in the towel after being closed for eight weeks due to the coronavirus pandemic and the inability to secure any funding despite filling out numerous applications for business loans.
“The pandemic was the icing on the cake,” she explained. “We had just come back from NYC at the end of February with a bunch of spring merchandise. Eight weeks of being shut down was a long time, especially with the seasons changing. That really convinced me that it was time, though I wanted to hang onto my 50 years.”
Thus sadly, It’s Judi’s Place will officially be closing on Oct. 10, 50 years to the day that it originally opened back in 1970. That chapter may be closing, yet Zelina is excited for the next chapter — retirement.
Zelina relayed that during the shut-down, she got a taste of retirement and was able to enjoy the small things, such as sleeping in, spending all day with her husband and watching new movies.
Rest is well deserved, as Zelina was not only a successful business woman, wife and mother in her lifetime, she is also a Rotarian, in fact, the second woman to join the Rotary. Additionally, she was the first female president of the Kane Chamber of Commerce and Retail Merchants and also was the captain for the Relay for Life team “Trekkin for Trevor” for five years, in honor of her grandson, Trevor, who was diagnosed with leukemia.
Recent posts on the It’s Judi’s Place Facebook page are currently full of comments from past and current customers, sharing their experiences and fond memories of the establishment.
Thus, what would have been an anniversary celebration on Oct. 10 is now a bittersweet final closing.
Zelinski relayed to the Era that several nights ago, she received a call that almost brought her to tears, informing her that her children had put up billboards with her photo and the words “Simply the Best! Judy Zelina, Congrats on 50 years!”
Within the limitations the pandemic has placed on businesses, Zelina would love nothing more than to have people come help her celebrate the 50 years It’s Judi’s Place has spent providing the latest fashion trends to the women of Kane and surrounding areas.